• Certifications and Licenses
  • ACLS - Advanced Cardiac Life Support

    • Cost varies
    • Renews every 2 years

    COURSE FORMAT

    Online
    In Person
    Blended

    About

    Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) training and certification builds on the fundamental lifesaving skills acquired during Basic Life Support (BLS) training. ACLS certification obtained through the American Heart Association (AHA) is often required for nurses and other healthcare professionals working in intensive care units (ICUs) or any area providing care to critically ill adults. Advanced cardiovascular life support skills include BLS, airway management, communication among the resuscitation team, related pharmacology, and recognition and management of respiratory and cardiac arrest, peri-arrest conditions, acute coronary syndrome (ACS), and stroke

    Course Format

    ACLS courses are designed for healthcare professionals who frequently deal with cardiopulmonary arrest and other cardiovascular emergencies, including those in emergency departments, ICUs, other critical care units and emergency response services. Doctors, nurses, paramedics and other professionals in the medical field with jobs that require advanced emergency training benefit from completing Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support certification courses to help ensure increased ROSC (return of spontaneous circulation) in the event of cardiac arrest.

    ACLS certification is available in two training formats and both options teach the same skills. Both options also earn participants the AHA ACLS Healthcare Provider Course Completion Card, which may be a job requirement for professionals in the aforementioned specialties.

    In Person

    Classroom ACLS is an instructor-led, hands-on format completed in-person in a classroom environment at a local AHA Training Center. The course covers prevention of cardiac arrest, intervention in cardiopulmonary arrest, early and continuous CPR, stroke assessment and care plan, acute dysrhythmia recognition and treatment, ACS care pathways, integration of BLS, post-cardiac arrest care, and high-performance resuscitation teams. In-person ACLS training includes real-world scenarios through actual patient videos and lifelike simulations delivered through a dynamic hands-on class format that reinforces skills proficiency.

    • Completion time: ACLS ILT (instructor-led training) Full Courses are about 15.25 hours with breaks or 10.25 to 11.25 hours without breaks. ACLS ILT Update Courses are 6 to 7 hours without breaks. ACLS ILT Traditional Full Courses are 12.25 to 13.25 hours and ACLS ILT Traditional Update Courses are 6.75 to 7.75 hours without breaks. Traditional vs. non-traditional depends on the training site. 

    Cost: Determined by the AHA Training Center but averages about $200 to $300. This cost may or may not include the ACLS Provider Manual, which costs $36.50 for an eBook or $42 for a printed manual through the AHA.

    Blended

    Blended Learning HeartCode® ACLS is ideal for individuals who prefer doing the majority of their ACLS training online. However, this method still requires hands-on in-person skills training at an AHA Training Center. The online portion utilizes various eLearning processes, including eSimulations, dramatizations, animations, interactive activities, mega code cases, team dynamics training, and self-directed learning to educate students on ACLS skills. Students must pass a multiple-choice exam with a score of 84% or better before they receive a certificate of completion to present to an AHA Instructor for admittance into a hands-on session. In-person skills training and assessment are required to complete the course and earn Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support certification.

    • Completion Time: Online portion of HeartCode ACLS takes about 6.5 to 7 hours to complete and the hands-on skills session takes another 5 hours using the Full Agenda or 2.5 hours using the Update Course Agenda.

    Cost: $151 online portion. Hands-on skills session varies and is determined by individual AHA Training Centers but often runs between $125 and $275.

    Online

    Virtual ACLS Certification Some AHA-authorized training centers were approved to provide fully virtual certifications for the skills testing portion of ACLS certification. Virtual skills testing includes physical, monitored skills testing sessions via Zoom. Students must use the required equipment mailed to them by the training center to complete virtual skills testing. Upon completion, students receive an official AHA course completion card that should be accepted by all employers. Virtual skills testing replaces the in-person skills session part of the AHA HeartCode course and may be discontinued once COVID concerns have fully passed.

    Certification

    Information on Obtaining ACLS Certification

    Before beginning the Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support certification course, students must take an ACLS Pre-Course Self-Assessment to ensure they’re prepared to take the course and to minimize the risk of failing. Pre-Course Self-Assessments are performed online only and evaluate knowledge in rhythm recognition, practical application and pharmacology to determine whether further review and/or practice are necessary before taking the ACLS course. Students must achieve a score of 70% or better on the assessment and bring their scoring report to class.

    For the blended HeartCode ACLS certification, students must either be issued a license key or purchase one for the online portion of the course. Students activate their licenses and complete their online training at eLearning.heart.org. After completing the online portion and passing a written exam, students receive a certificate to present to their hands-on skills session instructor, who verifies completion at eLearning.Heart.org/verify certificate.

    Information on Renewing Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support Certification

    ACLS certification is valid for two years, through the end of the month that the course completion card was issued. Time to complete renewal varies on the type of course taken but traditional courses take 8 hours. Pricing varies by instructor but often ranges between $100 and $250 and may or may not include books, equipment or other testing materials.

    ACLS renewals were previously offered as a hybrid online course and skills session or in-person instructor-led course only. COVID-19 concerns lead to additional precautions for some providers. While many still offer hybrid and instructor-led courses, in-person class sizes may be smaller. Some providers offer individual skills training with only the instructor and a single student in the session.

    Other Resources

    Continuing Education

    The AHA is accredited by several organizations to provide continuing education to healthcare professionals, so it can offer continuing education (CE) credits and continuing medical education (CME) for some of its courses. HeartCode ACLS certification courses can be counted for up to 2 CE hours for physician assistants and nurses, 2.5 hours for respiratory therapists, 2.75 hours for pharmacists and 3 advanced CE hours for emergency medical services personnel.

    Next Steps

    Healthcare professionals who use ACLS regularly should consider ACLS for Experienced Providers certification. ACLS EP courses go beyond core ACLS training and are intended for experienced healthcare professionals looking to improve outcomes in complex cardiovascular and respiratory emergencies. These courses also help providers improve their critical thinking and decision-making strategies while enhancing their differential diagnosis and pre-arrest, arrest and post-arrest treatment skills. The instructor-led, hands-on course takes about 8 hours (with breaks) to complete and results in an ACLS EP Provider Course Completion Card that’s valid for two years.

    Healthcare professionals who regularly treat infants and children may also want to pursue:

    • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certification is often required of nurses and other medical providers who regularly work with pediatric patients.

    Pediatric Emergency Assessment, Recognition, and Stabilization (PEARS) certification is recommended for doctors, nurses, physician assistants, outpatient staff, EMTs, school-based providers and other medical providers who might encounter pediatric emergencies.

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    Frequently asked questions

    Can you earn ACLS certification completely online?

    Yes, but most online providers aren’t authorized by the AHA so you won’t receive an American Heart Association Provider Card, which many healthcare facilities require. The AHA is the only provider of AHA ACLS certification cards and it usually requires an in-person skills assessment for course completion. However, it did authorize some providers to offer virtual skills testing during COVID-19 concerns. These providers offer blended certification courses completely online without the in-person requirement. Always make sure you’re signing up with a provider authorized to issue AHA ACLS certification cards.

    Is Basic Life Support training included with ACLS courses?

    BLS training isn’t included in AHA ACLS courses, but the AHA allows instructors to add BLS skills testing to an exam to provide both a BLS Provider eCard and an ACLS Provider eCard upon completion of an ACLS course. BLS skills can be incorporated into advanced courses but healthcare providers are expected to already be proficient in BLS skills before taking an ACLS course.

    Do you need a current BLS Provider Card to take ACLS?

    Students are expected to already have proficient BLS skills, but the AHA doesn’t require that they have a current BLS Provider card to take an ACLS course. However, individual Training Centers may require students to have a valid BLS Provider card before they allow them to sign up for ALCS training.